Skip to Content

Graduation Regalia

Back to Article Listing


Morgridge College of Education

Blog  •
Events, Students  •

Gowns & Robes

The academic gown is usually black and is worn at all levels of education. It is to be worn closed and zipped. The robe is often ankle- or mid-calf length.The Bachelor’s gown is the most simple; the Master’s gown typically has longer, oblong sleeves; and theDoctoral gown is more elaborate, made of velvet, and has three stripes on the bell-shaped sleeves that indicate the school/area of study.


Hoods are conferred upon students when they graduate with a Master’s or Doctoral degree. They are made of the same material as the gown. The hood is3.5′ long (Master’s) or 4′ (Doctoral) and features a velvet trim that indicates the discipline of graduation.The lining of the hood indicates the colors of the college from where the student graduated.

Caps, Mortarboards & Tams

Caps and mortarboards also become more elaborate with more degrees. Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates have a flat cap with a tassel. The tassel starts on the right and graduates move it to the left once they receive their diploma (a good way to remember this is that they “left” their institution). A doctoral cap is known as a “tam” which is velvet; has four, six, or eight corners; and is floppier than the traditional cap.


The colors of hoods symbolize the department/discipline of graduation. Here are some common ones you might see:

  • Light blue – education, counseling
  • Citron (yellow) – social work
  • Dark blue – all Ph.D.
  • Purple – law
  • White – history, sociology
  • Gold – psychology
  • Crimson (dark red) – communication
  • Lemon – library science


Graduates might wear other items with their graduation regalia, such as stoles, cords, medals, and medallions.

  • Academic stoles, which look like thinner, satin hoods, are decorative in nature and typically indicate membership in clubs and organizations.
  • Cords, or braided rope, are often worn to show academic achievement (e.g. summa cum laude).
  • Medals and medallions are bestowed upon faculty or students for important titles or positions (e.g. Chancellor,President, Valedictorian).


The history of the academic regalia we see today dates back to the 12th and13th centuries when colleges and universities in western Europe were first being founded. It was the traditional dress of the clergy and monks at the time who often conducted business in cold, unheated churches. Gowns were worn to keep warm and hoods, or skull caps, were used to cover shaved heads. Caps and gowns were seen as markers of privilege and distinguishment. The colors that we see today were implemented and standardized in the late 19th century in order to bring more uniformity to the ceremony following an increase in the number of college students.